Monday, November 28, 2016

Rory Gilmore's writing career

Everyone loves these Gilmores. I want to get it and, searching my blog's archives, have apparently tried to get it and failed to do so before. I watched (or had on as background noise) all four mega-episodes of the miniseries and... I'm left where I started, wondering what others are seeing that I'm not. I think it comes down to whether you think the fictional New England town of Stars Hollow would be delightful or suffocating, and everyone knows where I stand? Anyway.

As Miss Self-Important points out, the weirdness of the new miniseries is that Rory, who we last saw as a recent Yale graduate, is supposed to be 32 but hasn't let's say filled the time between then and now. A recap I found somewhere — maybe one of the many Vulture ones? — pointed out that these episodes, or some version of them, were meant to air a decade ago, which may explain why Rory's in such an early-20-something rut. All Rory has done professionally since college graduation is briefly (?) work on a political campaign, and write a few freelance articles, and she's sort of couch-surfing, dating around, hanging out with her mom... but also jetting off to London and having a string of glamorous professional near-misses. 

While this might have a slacker-ish, "Girls"-ish sound if Rory were a decade younger, at 32 it's more the sort of thing that raises alarm bells. She didn't have kids, or a different career, or any major illness or personal crisis that we know about. She has a lost decade to account for. She's therefore off. And not off in an oh-those-millennials way, but in a would-be-upsetting-if-real way. But this is never acknowledged. Or it is acknowledged, but in the cutesy manner of the show, where she's just this free spirit on a journey. Which is what it's called, I guess, when people with endless (discreet) independent wealth decide not to do anything to fill their days.

I'm jumping ahead to the end, because it's the only way to make sense of what comes earlier. It's getting spoiler-y:

It's only at the end of the four endless episodes that Rory's relationship to the writing world becomes clear. At that point, she's decided she's going to write a book. A memoir of sorts, about her relationship with her mother, called Gilmore Girls. (The show, get it?) And what does this decision involve? Not literary agents or editors. Not self-publishing. Just a whole lot of telling anyone whose path she crosses that she is now Writing A Book, as though deciding to write a book is a career path. (And everyone she meets treats it as one!) Having read all 10,000 personal essays from writers who've written actual, published books, successful and well-promoted, who were stunned to learn that book-writing alone doesn't pay enough to quit a day job, I'm deeply, viscerally aware that actually writing books is something one does, if one is lucky, on the side.

And yet there's Rory, announcing to her mother that now that she's decided she will Write A Book, she's going to go from couch-surfing to renting an apartment (in Queens rather than Brooklyn, how sensible!) that has a study, because how could anyone write a book in a home without a special room devoted to the project? (I just... I mean...) She announces the book she intends to write with more confidence that anyone will care than I'm able to summon re: the book I actually wrote

But why should she have other concerns when she comes from a world where spare-room-having establishments are being thrown at her left and right? Which will it be, the posh-sounding cabin offered up by the superrich friend-with-benefits, or the spare empty mansion left behind by her superrich grandmother? And then it becomes clear: She's an heiress. That's why she puts on nice new business attire to go into her unpaid job (side note: remember the flack Hannah Horvath got for that unpaid post-college internship) at her town paper! She may be broke, but the world is her safety net!

So how should the viewer, especially the not-Rory writer-viewer, feel about all this? Either we can say that the show offers an unrealistic portrait of the writing life, or it offers a very realistic portrait. If you're wealthy, gorgeous, and went to the right college, you can just coast along on an impressive-sounding but work-sparse career that consists of the occasional highbrow publication. And a memoir of a couch-surfing early-30s aristocratic woman would probably sell.